Lady Midnight – chapter 25

Emma and Julian led the way into the cavern, and Mark brought up the rear, sandwiching the others between them. As before, the tunnel was narrow at first, the ground tumbled with uneven pebbles. The rocks were disturbed now, many of them kicked aside. Even in the dimness—Emma had not dared illuminate her witchlight—she could see where the moss growing along the cave wall had been clawed at by human fingers.

 

“People came through here earlier,” Emma murmured. “A lot of people.” “Followers?” Julian’s voice was low.

 

Emma shook her head. She didn’t know. She was cold, the good sort of cold, the battle cold that came from your stomach and spread outward. The cold that sharpened your eyes and seemed to slow time around you, so that you had infinite hours to correct the sweep of a seraph blade, the angle of a sword.

 

She could feel Cortana between her shoulder blades, heavy and golden, whispering to her in her mother’s voice. Steel and temper, daughter.

 

They came out into the high-ceilinged cavern. Emma stopped dead, and the others crowded around her. No one said a word.

 

The cavern was not as Emma remembered it. It was dim, giving the impression of immense space spreading away into darkness. The portholes were gone. Etched into the stone of the cave near her were the words of the poem that had become so familiar to them all. Emma could see sentences here and there, flashing out at her.

 

I was a child and she was a child,

 

In this kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

Coveted her and me.

 

The wingèd seraphs of Heaven.

 

Shadowhunters.

Julian’s witchlight flared up in his hand, illuminating the space, and Emma gasped.

 

In front of them was a stone table. It rose chest high, the surface rough and pitted. It looked as if it had been carved out of black lava. A wide circle of white chalk, sketched on the floor, surrounded the table.

 

On it lay Tavvy. He seemed to be sleeping, his small face soft and slack, his eyes closed. His feet were bare, and his wrists and ankles were locked into chains that were attached by loops of iron to the table’s stone legs.

 

A metal bowl, splashed with ominous-looking stains, had been placed by his head. Beside it was a jagged-toothed copper knife.

 

The witchlight cut into the shadows that seemed to hang in the room like a living thing. Emma wondered how big the cave really was, and how much of it was a shifting illusion.

 

Livvy cried out her brother’s name and lunged forward. Julian caught hold of her, hauling her back. She struggled incredulously against his grip. “We need to save him,” she hissed. “We have to get to him—”

 

“There’s a protection circle,” Julian hissed back. “Drawn around him on the floor. If you step through it, it could kill you.”

 

Someone was murmuring softly. Cristina, whispering a prayer. Mark had stiffened. “Be quiet,” he said. “Someone’s coming.”

 

They did their best to melt back into the shadows, even Livvy, who had not stopped struggling. Julian’s witchlight winked out.

 

A figure had appeared out of the darkness. Someone in a long black robe, a hood hiding their face. A tall someone with hands sheathed in black gloves. He always showed up in a robe and gloves and a hood, okay? Completely covered.

Emma’s heart began to pound.

 

The figure approached the table, and the protection circle opened like a lock, runes vanishing and fading until there was a gap to step through. Head down, the figure came closer to Tavvy.

 

And closer. Emma felt the Blackthorns all around her, their fear like a living thing. She could taste blood in her mouth; she was biting her lip, so badly did she want to throw herself forward, risk the circle, grab Tavvy and run.

 

Livvy broke away from Julian and burst into the cavern. “No!” she cried. “Step away from my brother, or I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you—”

 

The figure froze. Slowly, it raised its head. Its hood fell back, and long, curling black hair spilled out. A familiar koi tattoo glimmered against brown skin. “Livvy?”

“Diana?” Ty spoke, voicing his sister’s disbelief. Livvy was stricken silent.

Diana jerked away from the table, staring. “By the Angel,” she breathed. “How many of you are here?” It was Julian who spoke. His voice was level, though Emma could feel the effort it took to keep it that way. Diego was leaning forward, his eyes narrow. Jace Herondale and the Lightwoods were betrayed by

 

their own tutor. “All of us,” Julian said.

 

“Even Dru? You don’t understand how dangerous this is—Julian, you have to get everyone out of here.” “Not without Tavvy,” Emma snapped. “Diana, what the hell are you doing? You told us you were in

Thailand.”

“If she was, no one at the Bangkok Institute knew about it,” said Diego. “I checked.”

 

“You lied to us,” Emma said. She remembered Iarlath saying: Foolish Shadowhunters, too naive to even know who you can trust. Had he meant Malcolm or Diana? “And you’ve barely been here, this whole investigation, like you were hiding something from us—”

Diana recoiled. “Emma, no, it’s not like that.”

 

“Then what is it like? Because I can’t imagine what possible reason you could have for being here—” There was a noise. Approaching footsteps, from the shadows. Diana flung out a hand. “Get back—get

away—”

Julian grabbed for Livvy, hauling his sister back into the shadows just as Malcolm appeared. Malcolm.

 

He looked just as he always did. A bit scruffy in jeans and a white linen jacket that matched his hair. In

 

his hand he carried a large black book, tied with a leather strap. “It is you,” Diana whispered.

Malcolm looked at her calmly.

 

“Diana Wrayburn,” he said. “Now, now. I didn’t expect to see you here. I rather thought you’d run away.”

Diana faced him. “I don’t run.”

He seemed to look at her again, to see how close she was to Tavvy. He frowned. “Step away from the boy.”

Diana didn’t move.

“Do it,” he said, tucking the Black Volume into his jacket. “He’s nothing to you, anyway. You’re not a Blackthorn.”

“I’m his tutor. He has grown up in my care.”

“Oh, come now,” said Malcolm. “If you’d cared about those children, you’d have taken the post as head of the Institute years ago. But I suppose we all know why you didn’t do that.”

 

Malcolm grinned. It transformed his whole face. If Emma had still held lingering doubts about his guilt, about the story Kieran had told, they vanished in that moment. His mobile, amusing features seemed to harden. There was cruelty in that smile, framed against a backdrop of echoing, depthless loss.

 

A flare went up from the table, a burst of fire. Diana cried out and stumbled back, out of the circle of protection. It sealed itself up behind her. She hurled herself to her feet and threw herself toward Tavvy, but this time the circle held fast; she bounced off it as if off a glass wall, the force sending her staggering back.

 

“No human thing can cross that barrier,” said Malcolm. “I’m guessing you had a charm to get you through the first time, but it won’t work again. You should have stayed away.”

 

“You can’t possibly hope for success, Malcolm,” Diana gasped. She was clutching her left arm with her right; the skin looked burned. “If you kill a Shadowhunter, the Nephilim will hunt you for the rest of your days.”

 

“They hunted me two hundred years ago. They killed her,” said Malcolm, and the throb of emotion in his voice was something Emma had never heard before. “And we had done nothing. Nothing. I do not fear them, their unjust justice or unlawful laws.”

“I understand your pain, Malcolm,” Diana said carefully. “But—”

 

“Do you? Do you understand, Diana Wrayburn?” he snarled—then his voice softened. “Maybe you do. You have known the injustice and intolerance of the Clave. If only you hadn’t come here—it’s the Blackthorns I despise, not the Wrayburns. I always rather liked you.”

 

“You liked me because you thought I was too frightened of the Clave to look closely at you,” Diana said, turning away from him. “To suspect you.” For a moment she faced Emma and the others. She mouthed RUN at them silently, before turning back to Malcolm.

 

Emma didn’t budge, but she did hear a movement behind her. It was quiet; if she hadn’t been wearing a rune that sharpened her hearing, it would have been inaudible. To her surprise, the movement was Julian, disappearing from her side. Mark was next to him. Silently they slipped back into the tunnel.

 

Emma wanted to call after Julian—what was he doing?—but she couldn’t, not without alerting Malcolm. Malcolm was still moving toward Diana; in a moment he’d be where he could see them. She put a hand to the hilt of Cortana. Ty was gripping a knife, white-knuckled; Livvy held her saber, her face set and determined.

 

“Who told you?” Malcolm said. “Was it Rook? I didn’t think he’d guessed.” He tipped his head to the side. “No. You weren’t sure when you got here. You suspected . . .” His mouth turned down at the corners. “It was Catarina, wasn’t it?”

Diana stood with her feet apart, her head back. A warrior stance. “When the second line of the poem

 

was deciphered and I heard the phrase ‘Blackthorn blood,’ I realized that we weren’t searching for a killer of mundanes and faeries. That this was about the Blackthorn family. And there is no one more likely to know about a grudge that goes back years than Catarina. I went to her.”

 

“And you couldn’t tell the Blackthorns where you went because of the reason you know Catarina,” said Malcolm. “She’s a nurse—a nurse to mundanes. How do you think I found out—?”

 

“She didn’t tell you about me, Malcolm,” snapped Diana. “She keeps secrets. What she told me about you was simply what she knew—that you’d loved a Nephilim girl and that she’d become an Iron Sister. She’d never questioned the story because as far as she knew, you’d never questioned the story. But once she told me that, I was able to check with the Iron Sisters. No Nephilim girl with that story had become one of them. And once I realized that was a lie, the rest began to come together. I remembered what Emma had told us about what she’d found here, the clothes, the candelabra. Catarina went to the Spiral Labyrinth and I came here—”

 

“So Catarina gave you the charm to get you through the protection circle,” said Malcolm. “Unfortunate that you wasted it. Did you have a plan or did you just rush here in a panic?”

Diana said nothing. Her face looked carved out of stone.

“Always have a plan,” said Malcolm. “I, for one, have been crafting my current plan for years. And now here you are, the proverbial fly in the ointment. I suppose there’s nothing to do but kill you, though I hadn’t planned to, and exposing you to the Clave would have been so much more fun—”

 

Something silver bloomed from Diana’s hand. A sharp-pointed throwing star. It whipped toward Malcolm; one moment he was in its path, the next he was across the room. The throwing star hit the wall of the cave and tumbled to the ground, where it lay glimmering.

 

Malcolm made a hissing noise, like an angry cat. Sparks flew from his fingers. Diana was lifted up into the air and flung back against the wall, then to the floor, her arms clamping themselves to her sides. She rolled into a sitting position, but when she tried to stand, her knees crumpled under her. She thrashed at her invisible bonds.

 

“You won’t be able to move,” Malcolm said in a bored voice. “You’re paralyzed. I could have killed you instantly, of course, but well, this is quite a trick I’m about to perform and every trick needs an audience.” He smiled suddenly. “I suppose I shouldn’t forget the audience I have. It’s just that they aren’t very lively.”

 

Suddenly the cavern was alive with light. The thick shadows behind the stone table dissolved, and Emma could see that the cavern reached back and back—there were long rows of seats set up, like church pews, neat and orderly, and the seats were filled with people.

 

“Followers,” Ty breathed. He had only seen them before out of the window of the Institute, Emma thought, and wondered what he thought of them up close. It was strange to know that Malcolm had led all these people, that he had had such power over them that they did anything for him—Malcolm, who they’d all thought of as a foolish figure, someone who tied his own shoelaces together.

 

The Followers sat very still, their eyes wide open, their hands in their laps, like rows of dolls. Emma recognized Belinda and some of the others who had come to retrieve Sterling. Their heads were tilted to the side—a gesture of interest, Emma thought, until she realized how awkward the angle was and knew that it wasn’t fascination that kept them so still. It was that their necks were broken.

 

Someone pressed forward and put a hand on Emma’s shoulder. It was Cristina. “Emma,” she whispered. “We must attack. Diego thinks we can surround Malcolm, that enough of us could bring him down—”

 

Emma stood paralyzed. She wanted to run forward, to attack Malcolm. But she could feel something in the back of her mind, an insistent voice, telling her to wait. It wasn’t fear. It wasn’t her own hesitation. If she hadn’t known better, if she didn’t think it would mean she was going crazy, she would have said it was Julian’s voice. Emma, wait. Please wait.


“Wait,” she whispered.

 

“Wait?” Cristina’s anxiety was palpable. “Emma, we need to—”

Malcolm strode into the circle. He was standing close to Tavvy’s feet, which looked bare and vulnerable in the light. He reached out to the draped object standing at the foot of the table and twitched the cloth off it.

 

It was the candelabra Emma remembered, the brass one that had been bare of candles. It had become a far more macabre thing. Onto each spiked point was jammed a severed hand, wrist down. Rigid, dead fingers reached for the ceiling.

One hand bore a ring with a flashy pink stone. Sterling’s hand.

 

“Do you know what this is?” Malcolm asked, a gloating note in his voice. “Do you, Diana?” Diana looked up. Her face was swollen and bloody. She spoke in a croaking whisper. “Hands of

Glory.”

Malcolm looked pleased. “It took me quite a long time to figure out that this was what I needed,” he said. “This is why my attempt with the Carstairs family didn’t work. The spell called for mandrake, and it was a long time before I realized that the word ‘mandrake’ was meant to stand in for main de gloire—a Hand of Glory.” He smiled with keen pleasure. “The darkest of dark magic.”

 

“Because of the way they’re made,” said Diana. “They’re murderers’ hands. The hands of killers. Only a hand that has taken a human life can become a Hand of Glory.”

 

“Oh.” The small gasp in the darkness was Ty, his eyes wide and startled. “I get it now. I get it.” Emma turned toward him. They were pressed against opposite walls of the tunnel, looking across at

each other. Livvy was next to Ty, Diego on his other side. Dru and Cristina were beside Emma.

“Diego said it was weird,” Ty continued in a low whisper, “that the murder victims were such a mix— humans, faeries. It’s because the victims never mattered. Malcolm didn’t want victims, he wanted murderers. It was why the Followers needed Sterling back—and why Belinda cut off his hands and left with them. And why Malcolm let her. He needed the murderer’s hands, the hands they’d killed with—so he could do this. Belinda took both hands because she didn’t know which one he’d killed with—and she couldn’t ask.”

 

But why? Emma wanted to demand. Why the burning, the drowning, the markings, the rituals? Why?

But she was afraid that if she opened her mouth, a scream of rage would come out.

 

“This is wrong, Malcolm.” Diana’s voice was choked but steady. “I’ve spent days talking to those who’ve known you for years. Catarina Loss. Magnus Bane. They said you were a good, likable man. That can’t be all lies.”

 

“Lies?” Malcolm’s voice rose. “You want to talk about lies? They lied to me about Annabel. They said she had become an Iron Sister. All of them told me the same lie: Magnus, Catarina, Tessa. It was from a faerie I found out that they had lied. From a faerie I learned what had really happened to Annabel. By then she was long dead. The Blackthorns, murdering their own!”

 

“That was generations back. The boy you have chained to that table never knew Annabel. These are not the people who hurt you, Malcolm. These are not the people who took Annabel from you. They’re innocent.”

 

“No one is innocent!” Malcolm shouted. “She was a Blackthorn! Annabel Blackthorn! She loved me, and they took her—they took her and walled her up and she died there in the tomb. They did that to me and I do not forgive! I will never forgive!” He took a deep breath, clearly forcing himself to be calm. “Thirteen Hands of Glory,” he said. “And Blackthorn blood. That will bring her back, and she will be with me again.”

 

He turned away from Diana, toward Tavvy, and picked up the knife that lay on the table by Tavvy’s head.

The tension in the tunnel was sudden and silent and explosive. Hands reached for weapons. Grips

 

tightened on hilts. Diego raised his ax. Five pairs of eyes turned to Emma.

 

Diana struggled even more desperately as Malcolm raised the knife. Light sparked off it, strangely beautiful, illuminating the lines of the poem on the wall.

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

Julian, Emma thought. Julian, I’ve got no choice. We can’t wait for you.

 

“Go,” she whispered, and they exploded out of the tunnel: Ty and Livvy and Emma and Cristina, all of them, Diego rushing straight for Malcolm.

 

For a split second Malcolm looked surprised. He dropped the knife—it hit the floor and, made of soft copper, the blade bent. Malcolm stared down at it, then back up at the Blackthorns and their friends—and began laughing. He stood, laughing, in the center of the protection circle, as they rushed at him—and one by one were slammed backward by the force of the invisible protective wall. Diego swung his battle-ax. The ax glanced off the air as if it had struck steel and recoiled backward.

 

“Surround Malcolm!” Emma shouted. “He can’t stay in the protected area forever! Circle him!” They spread out, surrounding the protective runes on the floor. Emma found herself across from Ty,

 

knife in hand; he was looking at Malcolm with a peculiar expression on his face: half incomprehension, half hatred.

 

Ty understood acting, pretending. But betrayal on the scale Malcolm had practiced it was something else again. Emma couldn’t understand it herself and she’d had a clear view of just what kind of betrayal people were capable of when she’d watched the Clave exile Helen and abandon Mark.

 

“You’ll have to come out of there eventually,” Emma said. “And when you do—”

Malcolm bent and seized his damaged knife from the floor. When he straightened up, Emma saw that his eyes were the color of bruises. “When I do, you’ll be dead,” he spat, and whirled to reach out a hand toward the rows of the dead. “Rise!” he called. “My Followers, rise!”

 

There was a series of groans and creaks. Throughout the cave the dead Followers began to stand. They moved neither unusually slowly nor unusually quickly, but they moved with steady determination.

 

They did not seem to be armed, but as they neared the main chamber, Belinda—her eyes blank and empty, her head cocked to the side—flung herself at Cristina. Her fingers were bent into claws, and before Cristina could react, Belinda had torn bloody gashes down the side of her face.

 

With a cry of disgust, Cristina shoved the corpse away from her, slashing her butterfly knife across Belinda’s throat.

 

It made no difference. Belinda stood up again, the wound in her throat bloodless and flapping, and swung toward Cristina. Before she could take more than a single step there was a flash of silver. Diego’s ax sang out, whipping forward, severing Belinda’s head from her neck. The headless body sank to the ground. The wound still wasn’t bleeding; it looked cauterized.

“Behind you!” Cristina shouted.

 

Diego whirled. Behind him two other Followers were reaching to grab and claw at them. He spun in a swift arc, his ax taking both their heads with it.

 

There was a noise behind Emma. Instantly she calculated where the Follower behind her was; she leaped, spun, kicked, and knocked him back. It was the clarinetist with the curly hair. She stabbed downward with Cortana, severing his head from his body.

 

She thought of him winking at her in the Midnight Theater. I never knew his name, she thought, and then whirled back around.

 

The room was in chaos. Just as Malcolm must have wanted, the Shadowhunters had abandoned the perimeter of the protection circle to ward off the Followers.

 

Malcolm was ignoring everything that was going on around him. He had seized up the candelabra with the Hands of Glory on it and carried it to the head of the table. He set it down beside Tavvy, who slept on, a rosy flush on his cheeks.

 

Dru had run to Diana and was struggling to help her get to her feet. As a Follower approached them, Dru whipped around and ran the woman through with her blade. Emma saw her swallow as the body crumpled and realized it was the first time Dru had killed someone in battle—even if that someone was already dead.

 

Livvy was fighting gloriously, feinting and parrying with her saber, driving Followers toward Ty. He was carrying a seraph blade, one that blazed brightly in his grip. As a blond Follower lurched into him, he drove the blade into the back of the dead man’s neck.

 

There was a searing, crackling noise as the seraph blade met flesh and the Follower began to burn. He staggered away, clawing at his burning flesh, before tumbling to the ground.

“Seraph blades!” Emma called. “Everyone! Use your seraph blades!”

Lights blazed up through the cavern and Emma heard the murmur of voices calling the names of angels. Jophiel, Remiel, Duma. Through the haze of light she saw Malcolm with the bent copper knife. He ran a hand along the blade and it sprang back under his fingers, as sharp as it had been originally. He placed the tip of it against Tavvy’s throat and sliced downward, slitting open the little boy’s Batman T-shirt. The worn cotton curled open, revealing his thin, vulnerable chest.

 

Emma’s world seemed to drop away. In the chaos of the room, she was still fighting, her seraph blade flaming as she plunged it into one Follower, then two, then three. Their bodies crumpled all around her.

 

She tried to push through them, toward Tavvy, just as she heard Julian’s voice. She whirled around but couldn’t see him—and yet his voice had been clear in her ears, saying, Emma, Emma, move aside, away from the tunnel.

 

She jumped aside, skirting the body of a fallen Follower, just as she heard a new noise: the thunder of hooves. A sound pierced the room, something between a howl and the crash of an enormous bell. It bounced off the walls, a brutal echo, and even Malcolm looked up.

 

Windspear exploded from the mouth of the tunnel. Julian sat astride him, his hands buried in the horse’s mane. Mark was behind him, gripping his brother’s belt. They seemed to blur almost into one person as Windspear leaped.

 

Malcolm gaped as the horse hurtled through the air, smashing through the protective barrier. As Windspear sailed over the table, Julian flung himself from the horse’s back, falling heavily onto the flat stone surface beside Tavvy. Emma felt the bone-jarring shock of his pain go through her own body.

 

Mark kept his seat as Windspear swept over the table and landed on the other side of the circle. The circle itself, now pierced, began to writhe like an illuminated serpent, the runes flaring up one by one and then going out.

 

Julian was pulling himself up onto his knees. Malcolm snarled and reached for Tavvy—just as a figure dropped from the ceiling and knocked him to the ground.

 

It was Kieran. His hair shimmered blue-green and he raised a blade that was the same sea color. It plunged down toward Malcolm’s chest, but Malcolm threw his hands up. Dark purple light exploded from his palms, hurling Kieran back. Malcolm rose to his feet, his face twisted in a snarl of hate. He flung out a hand to crush Kieran into dust.

 

Windspear gave a scream. The horse whirled around, hooves raised, and punched them into Malcolm’s back; somehow Mark kept his seat. The warlock went flying. The horse, red eyes wide, reared and snorted. Mark, grabbing a fistful of Windspear’s mane, leaned down, his other hand outstretched toward Kieran.

“Take it,” Emma heard him say. “Kieran, take my hand.”

 

Kieran reached up, and Mark pulled him upright, hauling him onto Windspear’s back. They swung around and charged at a knot of Followers, the horse scattering them, Mark and Kieran reaching down to finish off the living dead with strokes of their swords.

Malcolm was dragging himself to his feet. His once-white jacket was liberally stained now with dirt

 

and blood. He began to move toward the table, where Julian was kneeling over Tavvy, tugging at the chains that bound him. The protection circle surrounding them was still sputtering. Emma took a deep breath and raced for the table, leaping into the air.

 

She felt a wavering snap of electricity as she passed through the broken circle, crouched, and flung herself upward. She landed on the table in a kneeling position, beside Julian.

“Move away!” was all she had time to gasp. “Julian, move!”

He rolled away from his brother, though she knew that letting go of Tavvy was the last thing he wanted to do. He slid to the edge of the table and rose to his knees, leaning back. Trusting Emma. Giving her space.

A blade made by Wayland the Smith can cut anything.

 

She swung down with Cortana, a few inches from Tavvy’s wrist. The edge of the blade sliced through the chain and it fell away, rattling. She heard Malcolm scream, and a flash of violet fire split the room.

 

Emma slashed down again with Cortana, severing the other chains holding Tavvy to the table. “Go!” she shouted at Julian. “Get him out of here!”

 

Julian caught up his little brother in his arms. Octavian hung limp, his eyes rolled back. Julian leaped down from the table.

 

Emma didn’t see him vanish into the tunnel; she had already whirled back around. Mark and Kieran were trapped at one end of the room by a group of Followers, Diego and Cristina at another. Malcolm was advancing on Ty and Livvy. He raised his hand again—and a small figure flew toward him, holding up a blazing seraph blade.

It was Dru.

 

“Stay away from them!” she shrieked, her blade shining between them. “Stay away from my brother and sister!”

 

Malcolm snarled, curling his finger toward her. A rope of purple light coiled around Dru’s legs, jerking her off her feet. The seraph blade rolled away, sputtering against the stone. “I still need Blackthorn blood,” Malcolm said, reaching down for her. “And yours will do as well as your little brother’s would have. In fact, you look like you’d have a lot more of it—”

“Stop!” Emma shouted.

 

Malcolm looked up at her—and froze. Emma was standing upright on the stone table. One hand clutched Cortana. The other held the candelabra of Hands of Glory.

 

“It took you a long time to collect these, didn’t it?” she said in a cold voice. “The hands of thirteen murderers. Not so easy.”

 

Malcolm released Dru and she scuttled away toward the far side of the room, scrabbling at her belt for another weapon. Malcolm’s face contorted. “Give it back.”

 

“Call them off,” Emma said. “Call off your Followers, and I’ll give you back your Hands of Glory.” “Deprive me of my chance to regain Annabel, and you will pay with agony,” he snarled.

 

“Can’t be worse than the agony of hearing you talk,” Emma said. “Call them off or I’ll cut these disgusting things into tiny pieces.” She tightened her grip on Cortana. “Let’s see if you can do a magic spell with those.”

 

Malcolm’s gaze swept the room. The bodies of Followers littered the cavern, but some of them were still on their feet, pinning Diego and Cristina in the corner of the room. Mark and Kieran were astride Windspear, both laying about themselves with blades. The horse’s hooves were stained red-brown with blood.

 

The warlock’s hands clenched at his sides. He turned and spat a few words in Greek, and the remaining Followers began to fall, crumpling to the ground. Diego and Cristina dashed over to Dru; Kieran brought Windspear to a halt and the faerie steed stood still as the dead fell dead once again.

 

Malcolm charged toward the table. Emma ran the length of it, sprang off the end, and landed lightly on

 

the floor. Then she kept running.

 

She ran toward the rows of chairs that had been set up for the Followers, down the aisle between them, and into the shadows. The faint glow of Cortana gave enough light that she could see a dark corridor between rocks, snaking away into the hill.

 

She plunged into it. Only the glowing moss on the walls gave any illumination. She thought she could see a glimmer in the distance and pressed on, though running with the heavy candelabra was making her arm ache.

 

The corridor forked. Hearing footsteps behind her, Emma plunged to the left. She had only been running for a few yards when a glass wall loomed up in front of her.

 

The porthole. It had grown larger, filling nearly a whole wall. The massive lever Emma remembered protruded from the stone beside it. The porthole glowed from within, like an enormous aquarium.

 

Behind the glass she could see the ocean—it was radiant, a deep blue-green. She could see fish and drifting seaweed and strange lights and colors beyond the glass.

 

“Oh, Emma, Emma,” said Malcolm’s voice behind her. “You took the wrong path, didn’t you? But one could say that about so much of your life.”

Emma spun and jabbed the candelabra toward Malcolm. “Get away from me.”

“Do you have any idea how precious those hands are?” he demanded. “For the fullest potency, they had to be severed just after the murder was performed. Setting up the killings was a feat of skill and daring and timing. You can’t believe how annoyed I was when you took Sterling from me before I could collect his hand. Belinda had to bring me both of them so I could discern which was the murdering instrument. And then Julian calling me for help—a stroke of luck, I have to say.”

“It wasn’t luck. We trusted you.”

“And I trusted Shadowhunters once,” said Malcolm. “We all make mistakes.” Keep him talking, she thought. The others will follow me.

 

“Johnny Rook said you told him to tell me about the body dump at the Sepulchre,” she said. “Why? Why set me on your trail?”

 

He moved a step forward. She jabbed the candelabra toward him. He held his hands up as if to placate her. “I needed you distracted. I needed you focused on the victims, not the murderers. Besides, you had to learn about the situation before the faerie convoy arrived on your doorstep.”

 

“And asked us to investigate the murders you were committing? What did you get out of that?” “I got the absolute promise that the Clave would stay out of it,” said Malcolm. “Individual

 

Shadowhunters don’t frighten me, Emma. But the whole mess of them could be a mess indeed. I’ve known Iarlath a long time. I knew he had connections to the Wild Hunt and I knew the Wild Hunt had something that would make you move Heaven and earth to keep information from the Clave and the Silent Brothers. Nothing against the boy personally; at least his Blackthorn stock is diluted by some good, healthy Downworlder blood. But I know Julian. I knew what he’d prioritize, and it wasn’t the Law or the Clave.”

 

“You underestimated us,” Emma said. “We figured it out. We realized it was you.”

 

“I thought they might send a Centurion, but I never guessed he’d be someone you knew. Trusted enough to take into your confidence despite Mark. When I saw the Rosales boy, I realized I didn’t have much time. I knew I’d have to take Tavvy right away. Thankfully, I had Iarlath’s help, which has been invaluable. Oh,” he added. “I heard about the whipping. I’m very sorry about that. Iarlath has his own ways of having fun, and they aren’t mine.”

 

“You’re sorry?” Emma stared in disbelief. “You killed my parents, and you’re apologizing? I’d rather be whipped a thousand times and have my parents back.”

 

“I know what you’re thinkin g. You Shadowhunters all think alike. But I need you to understand—” Malcolm broke off, his face working. “If you understood,” he said, “you wouldn’t blame me.”

 

“Then tell me what happened,” Emma said. She could see the corridor behind him, over his shoulder,

 

thought she could see shapes, shadows in the distance. If she could keep him distracted and the others could attack from behind . . . “You went to Faerie,” she said. “When you found out that Annabel wasn’t an Iron Sister. That she’d been murdered. Is that how you know Iarlath?”

 

“Despite not being born gentry, he was the right hand of the Unseelie King back then,” said Malcolm. “When I went, I knew the King might have me murdered. They don’t much like warlocks. But I didn’t care. And when the King asked me a favor, I did it. In return, he gave me the rhyme. A spell custom made to raise my Annabel. Blackthorn blood. Blood for blood, that’s what the King said.”

 

“So why didn’t you just raise her right then? Why wait?”

“Faerie magic and warlock magic are very different,” said Malcolm. “It was like translating something from another language. It took me years to decipher the poem. Then I realized it was telling me to find a book. I almost went out of my mind. Years of translation and all I got was a riddle about a book—” His eyes bored into hers, as if he were willing her to understand. “It was just chance that it was your parents,” he said. “They returned to the Institute while I was there. But it didn’t work. I did everything the spell book said, and Annabel didn’t stir.”

 

“My parents—”

“Your love for them wasn’t greater than my love for Annabel,” Malcolm said. “I was trying to make things fair. It was never about hurting you. I don’t hate the Carstairs. Your parents were sacrifices.”

“Malcolm—”

“They would have sacrificed themselves, wouldn’t they?” he asked reasonably. “For the Clave? For you?”

 

A rage so great it was numbing washed through Emma. It was all she could do to stay still. “So you waited five years?” She choked out the question. “Why five years?”

 

“I waited until I thought I’d gotten the spell right,” said Malcolm. “I used the time to learn. To build. I took Annabel’s body from her tomb and moved it to the convergence. I created the Followers of the Guardian. Belinda was the first murderer. I followed the ritual—burned and soaked the body, carved the markings onto it—and I felt Annabel move.” His eyes shone, an unholy blue-violet. “I knew I was bringing her back. After that nothing could have stopped me.”

 

“But why those markings?” Emma pressed herself back against the wall. The candelabra was heavy; her arm was throbbing. “Why the Unseelie King’s poem?”

 

“Because it was a message!” Malcolm cried. “Emma, for someone who’s talked so much about revenge, who’s lived it and breathed it, you don’t seem to understand much about it. I needed the Shadowhunters to know. I needed the Blackthorns to know, when the youngest of them lay dead, whose hand had dealt them that blow. When someone has wronged you, it isn’t enough that they suffer. They need to look at your face and know why they suffer. I needed the Clave to decipher that poem and learn exactly who would be their destruction.”

 

“Destruction?” Emma couldn’t help her incredulous echo. “You’re insane. Killing Tavvy wouldn’t destroy the Nephilim—and none of them who are alive even know about Annabel—”

 

“And how do you think that feels?” he shouted. “Her name forgotten? Her fate buried? The Shadowhunters turned her into a story. I think several of her kinsmen went mad—they couldn’t bear what they’d done, couldn’t bear the weight of the secret.”

 

Keep him talking, Emma thought. “If it was such a secret, how did Poe know? The poem, ‘Annabel Lee’—”

 

Something flashed across the backs of Malcolm’s eyes, something secretive and dark. “When I heard it, I thought it was a sickening coincidence,” he said. “But it obsessed me. I went to talk to the poet, but he had died. ‘Annabel’ was his last work.” His voice was bleak with memory. “Years went by, and I believed her to be in the Adamant Citadel. It was all that comforted me. That she was alive somewhere. When I found out, I wanted to deny it, but it was the poem that proved the facts of it—Poe had learned the

 

truth from Downworlders, learned it before I did—how Annabel and I had loved as children, how she would have left the Nephilim for me, but her family heard of it and decided death was preferable to life with a warlock. They’d walled her up in a tomb by the Cornwall sea, walled her up alive. Later, when I moved her body, I kept it near the ocean. She always loved the water.”

 

His breath was coming in sobs now. Emma, unable to move, stared. His grief was as raw and real as if what he were talking about had happened yesterday.

 

“They told me she’d become an Iron Sister. All of them lied to me—Magnus, Catarina, Ragnor, Tessa —corrupted by Shadowhunters, drawn in by their lies! And I, oblivious, grieving for her, until finally I found out the truth—”

 

Sudden voices echoed in the hall; Emma heard the sound of running feet. Malcolm snapped his fingers. Violet light shimmered in the tunnel behind them, its iridescence fading as it grew dimmer and more opaque, solidifying into a wall.

The sound of voices and footsteps vanished. Emma stood inside a sealed cave with Malcolm.

 

She backed up, clutching the candelabra. “I’ll destroy the hands,” she warned, her heart pounding. “I’ll do it.”

 

Dark fire sparked at his fingertips. “I could let you go,” he said. “Let you live. Swim away through the ocean like you did before. You could carry my message back for me. My message to the Clave.”

“I don’t need you to let me go.” She was breathing hard. “I’d rather fight.”

His smile was twisted, almost sorrowful. “You and your sword, no matter its history, are no match for a warlock, Emma.”

 

“What do you want from me?” she demanded, her voice rising, echoing off the walls of the cave. “What do you want, Malcolm?”

 

“I want you to understand,” he said through gritted teeth. “I want someone to tell the Clave what they’re responsible for, I want them to know the blood on their hands, I want them to know why.

 

Emma stared at Malcolm, a thin, stretched figure in a stained white jacket, sparks dancing along the edges of his fingertips. He frightened her and made her sad, all at the same time.

 

“Your why doesn’t matter,” she said finally. “Maybe you did what you did in the name of love. But if you think that makes any difference, you’re no better than the Clave.”

 

He moved toward her—and Emma flung the candelabra at him. He ducked away and it missed, hitting the rock floor with a clang. The fingers of the severed hands seemed to curl in as if to protect themselves. Emma planted her feet apart, remembering Jace Herondale, years ago in Idris, showing her how to stand so you’d never be knocked down.

 

She gripped the hilt of Cortana in a two-fisted grip, and this time she remembered Clary Fairchild, and the words she’d said to Emma in Idris, when Emma had been twelve years old. Heroes aren’t always the ones who win. They’re the ones who lose, sometimes. But they keep fighting, they keep coming back.

 

They don’t give up. That’s what makes them heroes.

 

Emma sprang toward Malcolm, Cortana upraised. He reacted with a second’s delay—flinging his hand toward her, light bursting from his fingers. It sizzled toward her, a streak of gold-and-violet light.

 

The delay gave her time to duck. She spun and raised Cortana over her head. Magic slid off the blade. She threw herself at Malcolm again and he ducked away, though not before she had slashed open his sleeve, just above the elbow. He barely seemed to notice.

“The death of your parents was necessary,” he said. “I had to see if the book worked.”

 

“No, you didn’t,” Emma snarled, brandishing Cortana. “You should know better than to try to raise the dead.”

 

“Because if Julian died, you wouldn’t try to bring him back?” said Malcolm with a delicate rise of his eyebrows, and Emma recoiled as if he’d slapped her. “You wouldn’t bring your mother and father back? Oh, it’s so easy for you, as it is for all Shadowhunters, standing there, making your moral pronouncements,

 

as if you’re better than the rest of us—”

 

“I am better,” Emma said. “I’m better than you. Because I’m not a murderer, Malcolm.”

To Emma’s shock, Malcolm recoiled—a true recoil of surprise, as if he hadn’t imagined being called a murderer before. Emma lunged, Cortana outstretched. The sword drove into Malcolm’s chest, splitting his blazer—and rammed to a stop, as if she’d stabbed it into a boulder.

 

She shrieked with pain as what felt like a bolt of electricity went up her arm. She heard Malcolm laugh, and a wave of energy shot from his outstretched fingers, slamming into her body. She was lifted and hurled backward, magic tearing through her like a bullet ripping a hole through a paper screen. She hit the uneven stone ground on her back, Cortana still gripped in her nerveless hand.

 

Red pain misted behind her eyelids. Through the fog, she saw Malcolm standing over her. “Oh, that was precious.” He grinned. “That was amazing. That was the hand of God, Emma!” He yanked his blazer open, and Emma saw what Cortana had struck—the Black Volume, tucked into the inside pocket of his jacket.

 

Cortana dropped from her hand, the metal hitting stone. Wincing, Emma shoved herself up onto her elbows, just as Malcolm bent down and seized the dropped candelabra. He looked at it and then down at her, his grin still slashed across his face.

 

“Thank you,” he said. “These Hands of Glory would have been very hard to replace. Now, Blackthorn blood, that’ll be easy.”

 

“Stay away from the Blackthorns,” Emma said, and was horrified to hear the weakness of her own voice. What had the Black Volume done to her? Her chest felt as if something heavy had been rolled onto it, and her arm burned and ached.

“You don’t know anything,” Malcolm snarled. “You don’t know the monsters they are.”

 

“Have you,” Emma said in a near whisper, “have you always hated them? Julian and the rest?” “Always,” he said. “Even when it seemed like I loved them.”

 

Emma’s arm was still burning, an agony that felt as if her skin was being lanced down to the bone. Her Endurance rune felt as if it were on fire. She tried not to let it show on her face. “That’s horrible. It’s not their fault. You can’t blame them for their ancestors’ sins.”

 

“Blood is blood,” Malcolm said. “We are all what we were born to be. I was born to love Annabel and that was taken from me. Now I live only for revenge. Just as you have, Emma. How many times have you told me that all you want in life is to kill the one who killed your parents? What would you give up for it? Would you give up the Blackthorns? Would you give up your precious parabatai? The one you’re in love with?” His eyes glittered as she shook her head in denial. “Please. I always saw the way you looked at each other. And then Julian told me that your rune had healed him from Rook’s poison. No normal Shadowhunter’s rune should have been able to do that.”

 

“Not—proof of anything—” Emma gasped.

 

“Proof? You want proof? I saw you, the two of you. On the beach, sleeping in each other’s arms. I stood over you and watched you and thought how easy it would be to kill you. But then I realized that that would be a mercy, wouldn’t it? Killing the two of you while you were in each other’s arms? There’s a reason you can’t fall in love with your parabatai, Emma. And when you find out what it is, you will feel the cruelty of the Shadowhunters, just as I have.”

 

“You’re a liar,” she said in her weakest voice, her words trailing off into a whisper. The pain in her arm had gone. She thought of people who bled nearly to death, how they talked about the fact that in the last moments, all the pain vanished.

 

Smiling, Malcolm knelt down beside her. He patted her left hand; her fingers twitched. “Let me tell you a truth before you die, Emma,” he said. “It is a secret about the Nephilim. They hate love, human love, because they were born of angels. And while God charged his angels to take care of humans, the angels were made first, and they have always hated God’s second creation. That is why Lucifer fell. He was an

 

angel who would not bow to mankind, God’s favored child. Love is the weakness of human beings, and the angels despise them for it, and the Clave despises it too, and therefore they punish it. Do you know what happens to parabatai who fall in love? Do you know why it’s forbidden?”

She shook her head.

 

His mouth quirked into a smile. There was something about that smile, so faint and yet so full of bone-deep hatred, that chilled her the way none of his grinning had. “Then you have no idea what your death will spare your beloved Julian,” he said. “So think about that as the life leaves your body. In a way, your death is a mercy.” He raised his hand, violet fire beginning to crackle between his fingers.

 

He hurled his magic at her. And Emma flung her arm up, the arm that Julian had carved the Endurance rune on, the arm that had been burning and aching and screaming at her to use it since she’d struck the Black Volume.

 

Fire slammed into her arm. She felt it like a hard blow, but nothing more. The Endurance rune was pulsing through her body with its power, and alongside that power rose her own rage.

 

Rage at knowing Malcolm had killed her parents, rage for the wasted years she’d searched for their killer when he’d been right in front of her. Rage for every time he’d smiled at Julian or picked up Tavvy when his heart was full of hate. Rage at one more thing that had been taken from the Blackthorns.

 

She seized Cortana and wrenched herself to her knees, her hair flying as she drove the sword into Malcolm’s gut.

 

This time there was no Black Volume to block her thrust. She felt the blade go in, felt it tear through skin and rip past bone. Saw the tip of it burst out through his back, his white jacket soaked through with red blood.

 

She sprang to her feet, yanking the sword free. He made a choking noise. Blood was spilling onto the ground, running across the stone, spattering the Hands of Glory.

 

“This is for my parents,” she said, and slammed his body as hard as she could against the glass wall. She felt his ribs snap as the glass behind him fissured. Water began to pour through the cracks. She felt

it splatter against her face, salty as tears.

“I’ll tell you about the parabatai curse,” he gasped. “The Clave will never let you know it—it’s forbidden. Kill me and you’ll never learn—”

With her left hand, Emma yanked down the lever.

She threw herself behind the glass door as it swung open, and the current exploded through. It moved like a living thing—like a hand, shaped out of water, formed by the sea. It surrounded Malcolm, and for a frozen moment Emma saw him there clearly, struggling with feeble motions, within a whirlpool of water, water that spilled across the floor, water that gripped him, encircling him like an unbreakable net.

 

It lifted Malcolm off his feet. He gave a cry of terror and the ocean took him, the current rushing back out, carrying him with it. The glass door slammed shut.

 

The silence the water left behind was deafening. Exhausted, Emma slumped against the glass of the porthole door. Through it she could see the ocean, the color of the night sky. Malcolm’s body was a pale white star in the darkness, drifting among the weeds, and then a dark, spiky talon curled upward, through the ripples, and caught hold of Malcolm by the ankle. With a quick jerk, his body was yanked down and out of view.

 

There was a bright flicker. Emma turned to see that the violet wall of light in the corridor behind her had vanished—spells disappeared when the warlocks who cast them died.

 

“Emma!” There were pounding footsteps in the corridor. Out of the shadows, Julian appeared. She saw his stricken expression as he caught her to him, his hands knotting in her soaked, bloodstained gear. “Emma, God, I couldn’t get to you through the wall, I knew you were there but I couldn’t save you—”

 

“You saved me,” she said hoarsely, wanting to show him the Endurance rune on her arm, but she was pressed too tightly against him to move. “You did. You don’t know it, but you did.”

 

And then she heard their voices. The others, coming toward them down the corridor. Mark. Cristina. Diego. Diana.

“Tavvy,” she whispered. “Is he—”

 

“He’s fine. He’s outside with Ty and Livvy and Dru.” He kissed her temple. “Emma.” His lips brushed hers. She felt a shock of love and pain go through her.

“Let me go,” she whispered. “You have to let me go, they can’t see us like this. Julian, let me go.”

His head came up, his eyes full of agony, and he moved away. She saw what it cost him, saw the tremor in his hands as he lowered them to his sides. Felt the space between them like the space of a wound torn into flesh.

 

She dragged her gaze from his and looked down at the ground. The floor was awash with seawater and blood, ankle-deep. Somewhere Malcolm’s candelabra floated beneath the surface.

 

Emma was glad. The salt would dissolve Malcolm’s gruesome monument to murder, dissolve it and pick it clean, and it would be white bones, settling as Malcolm’s body settled to the floor of the ocean. And for the first time in a long time, Emma felt grateful to the sea.

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